To keep these tiny hair factories strong and active, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet, full of the nutrients hair cells need to divide and grow. One of those vital nutrients is B12, also known as cobalamin. B12 promotes healthy hair growth by assisting in the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells, which feed hair follicles.

How vitamin B12 and hair growth are connected?

Your hair is made of a protein called keratin. This substance is dead, which is why it doesn’t hurt when you get your hair cut. But, your hair follicles, located just under the surface of your skin, are very much alive. In fact, the bulb, which is the bottom part of the follicle, is made up of the fastest growing cells in the human body, dividing every 23 to 72 hours.

At the base of the bulb is the papilla, which contains blood vessels. Its main job is to connect your follicles to your body’s blood supply to deliver the oxygen and nutrients necessary for hair growth. Since B12 helps produce red blood cells, having enough of this vitamin is essential to the hair growth process.

Sources of Vitamin B12

Because the human body doesn’t produce vitamin B12, it’s important to get this nutrient from your diet. B12 can be found in animal-based foods such as fish, poultry, meat, dairy and eggs. But, this vitamin doesn’t exist in plant-based foods, so vegans and vegetarians should talk to their doctors about adding B12 supplements or B12-fortified foods to their diet.

Health problems due to a vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is essential for overall health, not just hair growth, so a deficiency could cause multiple problems including anemia. With a minor deficiency of B12, there may be no symptoms. But, if the deficiency isn’t addressed, it could have serious repercussions such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nerve problems and depression. In addition, age, Crohn’s or celiac disease, immune system disorders, heavy drinking and weight loss surgery can make it harder for your body to absorb B12, which could lead to a deficiency.